After exercise, try something warm and fizzy


June 21, 1994|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate

Tiredness during prolonged exercise, particularly in hot weather, is usually caused by lack of fluid and calories. The key to keeping up with your fluid needs is to drink whatever tastes best to you.

In 1968, studies showed that 2.5 percent was the highest concentration of sugar that you could put in your exercise drink and still absorb it rapidly. This posed a problem, because drinks taste best when they contain a 10 percent concentration of sugar. Soft drinks and fruit juices contain 10 percent sugar.

Soon after these studies, manufacturers started to sell exercise drinks containing 2.5 percent sugar. They didn't taste good, because the concentration of sugar was too low, so some manufacturers added saccharin to sweeten the taste.

Twenty years later, studies refuted those done in 1968, which were done on resting people. When the same studies were repeated on exercising people, 10 percent sugared drinks were absorbed rapidly.

Other studies in the 1960s showed carbonation and warmness delayed absorption. Several studies since show carbonated drinks are absorbed as rapidly as noncarbonated ones and warm drinks are absorbed as rapidly as cold ones.

When you exercise, drink any fluid you like. The data clearly show the drink that will rehydrate you best is the one you prefer.

Q: A friend swears he runs better after a couple beers. Does alcohol improve athletic performance?

A: A running journal had a story about a runner who grew very tired near the end of a marathon, stopped and drank some vodka, and then felt rejuvenated and passed many other runners as he raced toward the finish line. Alcohol affects your mind, so when he thought that he was passing other runners, they really were passing him.

Most people will not be harmed by taking up to two drinks after exercising, but drinking during a competition that requires endurance will harm your performance.

Alcohol acts directly on your heart muscle to reduce the force of each contraction. For a couple of hours after even one drink, your heart cannot pump as much blood through your body. Most people do not notice this because alcohol causes your body to release large amounts of its own natural stimulants, such as adrenalin and noradrenalin, which make you feel that you are doing better than you are.

Taking significantly more than two drinks a day can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Alcohol also causes your muscles to use more oxygen during exercise, so you tire sooner. It increases sweating so you dehydrate earlier, and it causes your muscles to use up their stored sugar faster, so your muscles feel heavy and hurt earlier.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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